Instacart shoppers demand answers over alleged wrongfully deactivated accounts | CNN Business (2023)


For Rachael Freedman, shopping for on-demand grocery delivery startup Instacart felt like something of a dream job.

Freedman, who is based in San Diego, signed up for the service in November 2020 after staying at home for years to take care of her kids.

“I loved the flexibility. I liked the money. It was good exercise – I was enjoying it,” she told CNN Business.

But in late March, Freedman was abruptly kicked off the platform she had been logging into daily to shop for and deliver groceries. An email from Instacart informed her that her account was “linked” to another account on the platform, a breach of the company’s contractor agreement, according to a copy of the correspondence shared with CNN Business.

According to Instacart, a “linked account” is the term the company uses to describe an account it has detected as having indications of fraud, but it does not mean there is a duplicate account using identifying information of the shopper, or that the shopper’s personal data has been compromised.


Freedman, who was informed in the email that she could appeal, insisted she had only one account and sent documents to Instacart to plead her case: “I have only one account with Instacart … This is either an error or my account has been hacked?” she wrote.

Despite numerous attempts to get the company to review her situation, including through social media, her account remains deactivated nearly a month later. She learned through the app that her appeal was denied without further explanation. A customer service number only exists for customers – not the platform’s contractors, which are directed to utilize a 24/7 chat function within the shopper app or communicate via email in the case of deactivations.

“It’s like a guillotine – you’re cut off,” she said. “Boom, that’s it.”

WOODBRIDGE, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 26: Clark resident Jen Valencia still works part time for Instacart at Wegman's market on August 26, 2020 in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The pandemic has prompted a major spike in on-demand grocery shopping and delivery, making Instacart profitable for the first time since its founding in 2012. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Amazon was supposed to kill Instacart. Instead Instacart became a mini-Amazon

In trying to piece together what happened, she believes her deactivation could be linked to a scam she fell victim to a few months prior. And she’s hardly alone. CNN Business spoke with four other shoppers who received notifications about their accounts being deactivated in recent weeks which they believe might be tied back to a time when they say they were scammed.

In a statement to CNN Business, Instacart said the linked account deactivations impacted a small number of people.

“We take the safety and security of the Instacart platform very seriously,” the company said. “There has not been a breach or hack of the Instacart platform. To ensure the safest possible experience for all members of the Instacart community, our Trust & Safety team is dedicated to ongoing security measures to eliminate any instances of fraudulent activity on the platform.”

(Video) More Instacart Shopper Accounts Deactivated. My Final Thoughts. 🥕

Instacart said an appeal will be approved if a shopper can verify they were deactivated for reasons outside of their control. For shoppers who are impacted by phishing schemes or other types of unauthorized access, it said it has measures in place to help them regain access in a timely manner.

The situations the shoppers described to CNN Business highlight the precarious nature of gig work: They can work at their convenience as it suits their lifestyles, but they’re at the mercy the company’s whims and often opaque or nonexistent processes to redress grievances.

The shoppers were among the over 300,000 independent contractors that began working for the company since the start of the pandemic, as demand for grocery delivery services has skyrocketed and so too the demand for workers to fulfill orders.

The shoppers said Instacart – which has more than 500,000 shoppers and whose valuation has ballooned to $39 billion – hasn’t been responsive to their demands for help, the shoppers said.

Without clear answers from Instacart directly, the shoppers are left trying to make sense of what happened. Each reflected on scam-related incidents that happened months earlier, believing the deactivations could be connected. At the time, the shoppers were each locked out of their account temporarily but Instacart restored their access within days.

WOODBRIDGE, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 26: Clark resident Jen Valencia still works part time for Instacart at Wegman's market on August 26, 2020 in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The pandemic has prompted a major spike in on-demand grocery shopping and delivery, making Instacart profitable for the first time since its founding in 2012. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Instacart doubles its valuation for the second time since pandemic began

In January, Freedman picked up a batch order – two or more small orders from different customers – including one for two orange juice containers. She was told by the customer via the in-app chat function to text his wife when she arrived at the location to drop off the order. Upon arrival, the location was a nursing home – and no one by that name lived there. She texted the number the customer gave her and left the juices.

(Video) How To Get Your Instacart Shopper Account Reactivated After A False Deactivation

A few days later, she received a call from a person purporting to be from Instacart doing a survey. The person said he would send a verification code to update her system to ensure she received future batches. She believes the code helped the person gain access to her account. (Instacart said that shoppers are made aware they should not share account information with anyone claiming to be from Instacart or with any other third-parties.)

“Within 30 seconds, I was locked out of my account. I got an email saying my phone number had been changed. I panicked,” said Freedman, noting about $1,200 in earnings was sitting in her account.

Rebecca Maynard from Berryville, Virginia, experienced a similar situation. Maynard, who works part-time for a local media outlet and takes care of her disabled mother, started working for Instacart about one year ago. She called it “a lifesaver for me to earn some money.”

In August 2020, she received a call from someone claiming to work for Instacart and asking her to verify her account with a six-digit code. “As soon as I hung up, I thought, ‘I hope this is legitimate.’ I immediately looked at my account and I was logged out. It said my password was incorrect.”

After a few days of not being able to access her account – or earn money through Instacart – Maynard said it was restored. In April, 8 months later, Maynard received an email about her account being linked to another Instacart account.

A door-dash delivery driver waits near a restaurant on December 30, 2020 in New York City. The pandemic continues to burden restaurants and bars as businesses struggle to thrive with evolving government restrictions and social distancing plans which impact keeping businesses open yet challenge profitability. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images) Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Some delivery workers have no choice but to bring their kids along during the pandemic

“I understand in gig work nothing is guaranteed and I knew all along that if I did something wrong, I would be deactivated, but I never thought I would be accused of fraud,” Maynard told CNN Business.

(Video) How To Get Your Instacart Shopper Account REACTIVATED After Deactivation!

Maynard said she was told via email that her appeal was denied the same day she was informed she was deactivated; she still doesn’t understand why, despite sending numerous follow-up emails and reaching out to the company through social media.

Recent reports have surfaced of gig workers for other companies being targeted by scammers seeking to gain access to worker accounts and drain their earnings.

Ruth Wallace, who is based in Hazel Park, Michigan, provided a code to someone purporting to be from Instacart last August and was deactivated earlier this month. She told CNN Business that after working for the company throughout the pandemic, the situation hits especially hard.

“It kind of makes me angry because I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Wallace. “I was a 5-star shopper. Customers loved me. I had good reviews, and I had very few order issues. Just to do this, not explain it, and to completely ignore me is kind of hurtful. [It’s] like, ‘We used you during the pandemic, you did good work, now screw you.’”

On Friday, Wallace was notified via email that her appeal was approved and her account was reactivated. The company did not provide an explanation as to what happened.

Meanwhile, Maynard – who is also more than two weeks into her deactivation – said she’s starting to lose hope that her account will be reactivated. “In some ways, I would hate to even go back to a company that thinks so little of me, but my circumstances are kind of unique and limited,” she said.

“I can’t just pack up and move across the country and find a great job. It’s going to be impossible for me to recreate this flexible income I was able to find. My path forward is to keep fighting.”

(Video) Instacart Deactivation: Why You Got Deactivated + How to Get Reactivated


What if my Instacart account is wrongfully deactivated? ›

What If I Was Wrongfully Deactivated? If you believe Instacart made a mistake by locking your account, you should reach out to the shopper support team and explain the situation. You might have to submit proof that you didn't violate the independent contractor agreement or terms of service.

How do I dispute Instacart deactivation? ›

Appealing a Deactivation

Whether you know that Instacart deactivated your account in error or you don't see the reason, your first step is to contact shopper support if you want to start appealing their decision. When you reach out to them, you'll need to provide your username and why you're appealing the deactivation.

Can I sue Instacart as a shopper? ›

Can you Sue Instacart? Yes, you can sue Instacart. If you were involved in a car accident while you were driving for Instacart, you have the right to file a claim. If you suffered injuries, you could be eligible to file a lawsuit.

Is there a lawsuit against Instacart? ›

The $46.5 million settlement was reached last fall and was recently finalized. Around 308,000 people who worked for Instacart between Sept. 13, 2015 and Dec. 15, 2020 are believed to be eligible for restitution payments, the City Attorney's Office said.

What disqualifies you from being an Instacart shopper? ›

Several things can disqualify you during a background check, though Instacart has not made any of these factors public. Common reasons that we have encountered in our research include multiple moving violations in a vehicle, relatively recent felony convictions, and being a registered sex offender.

Can I delete my Instacart shopper account and make a new one? ›

Instacart retains personal information as required or permitted by law, in accordance with our Shopper Privacy Policy. If you delete your account and want to shop for Instacart in the future, you can't use the same email address. You MUST use a new one.

Can you make a second Instacart account? ›

Can I have two or more accounts? Instacart allows only one personal account per person or household. However, you may use a secondary account for business purposes. Accounts aren't limited to one delivery address, or even one ZIP code.

Can an Instacart shopper block a customer? ›

We review these reasons to inform improvements we make to the app. If you select “rude customer,” you can provide us more feedback on your experience. If you don't want to see any batches that include orders from this customer, you can check the box that says “block orders from this customer.”

What happens when you complain about an Instacart shopper? ›

Once Instacart receives the complaint, a customer representative will contact you. They will inform you about refunds, credits, and how to resolve the problem. Shoppers sometimes experience payment issues, too. Instacart shoppers use a special card to buy customers' groceries.

Do Instacart shoppers get penalized for mistakes? ›

Do Instacart drivers get penalized for mistakes? Well, it depends on quite a few factors. The length of time you have worked with them, the number of batches you have filled, the amount of wonderful comments you have received on the app, your star rating, and exactly what the mistake was.

What is the Instacart tipping scandal? ›

In one case, Instacart paid a worker just 80 cents for over an hour of work. Instacart has since said it was a glitch — caused by the fact that the customer tipped $10 — and has introduced a new minimum payment for orders. So, Instacart paid the worker $10.80, but just 80 cents of it came from Instacart.

Do Instacart shoppers get penalized for refunds? ›

Instacart Shoppers do not get penalized for refunds. Instacart bears the cost of refunds. The way Shoppers are impacted is through the ratings that customers leave. However, it is possible for a Shopper who has multiple issues with refund to be let go.

Why are people boycotting Instacart? ›

They say working for the company can be dangerous. Not only have workers tested positive for COVID-19, but they've also been robbed, assaulted, and had guns pulled on them. Lynn Murray, one of the people killed at a supermarket during a mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., was working for Instacart at the time.

Did Instacart get sued last year? ›

Last year, Instacart agreed to settle a lawsuit with the city of San Diego for $46.5 million, after the city alleged that the company misclassified workers.

How much was the Instacart settlement? ›

Instacart has settled a case for $46.5 million after the delivery giant was accused of paying workers as if they were independent contractors between 2015 and 2020.

Can you get suspended from Instacart? ›

Sometimes Instacart may suspend customer accounts as a security measure to prevent fraud. Our top priority is keeping your personal information secure. If your account appears to be suspended, you won't be able to place any orders. Please reach out to Instacart Customer Experience, and we can assist you.

What do Instacart Shoppers see about you? ›

For example, we may display your first name, last initial, and your geolocation to customers to show them who is shopping and/or delivering their orders. Our retail partners. We may disclose your Personal Information to our retail partners in order to provide and maintain the Instacart service.

Will a DUI disqualify me from Instacart? ›

Having a DUI might lower your chances of getting hired. But Instacart won't immediately disqualify you for it. The company wants reliable, steady drivers who have a clean record, at least over the past few years. Don't be discouraged from trying your luck; they might overlook your DUI.

Can two people use the same Instacart account? ›

Family account members

If you're the family account owner, you can only add 1 other member to that account. If you want to add a new member to your family account, you first have to remove the current member and then add a new one. You can remove and add up to 3 separate members within a 60 day period.

Can I use someone else's Instacart shopper account? ›

Instacart Shopper accounts are approved on an individual basis. A single shopper is expected to serve the customer, and it is this single Shopper that is paid for that order. Thus, it is against Instacart's rules for 2 Instacart shoppers to shop together on a single order.

Can I switch roles on Instacart? ›

If you've already started the signup process but want to make changes, you'll have to reach out to Instacart Care. We can help you make updates to your role, location, and personal information.

Can I do Instacart with my baby? ›

It is actually against Instacart policy to bring anyone with you while on an active batch. If you are caught or reported to Instacart, you can be deactivated. I have brought my children with me when I did my instacart shopping. When my 6 yr old dad was working & I needed the money what was I do.

Is there a limit for Instacart? ›

There is no limit for pickup orders. There is a 250 limit for delivery orders, which includes all countable items. For example, a customer can have 250 units of the same product or 250 units of a mix of products. Be aware that large orders might result in increased latency or possible timeouts.

How many orders can an Instacart shopper do at once? ›

The Instacart shopper shops for both orders at the same time, then delivers the orders to each customer separately. Triple batches are common, and quadruple (4) or even quintuple (5) batches are possible.

Can Instacart customers see your name? ›

“Today, customers can see limited information about you when you are shopping and delivering their orders, such as your first name and how many batches you've shopped," Instacart said in a blog post written for its shoppers.

Does Instacart audit Shoppers? ›

The digital kiosk will tell shoppers if they've been flagged for an audit. “We've got a lot of signals that we're looking at to figure out if your order is suspicious or if it's entirely good to go,” he said.

Does Instacart punish you for Cancelling orders? ›

Instacart is temporarily suspending the accounts of its gig workers who cancel grocery orders for reasons they say are beyond their control, thereby cutting them off from their income.

Is it rude to not tip Instacart? ›

Tips are optional and the best way to demonstrate your recognition and appreciation of service. Instacart's default for tipping is 5% or a percentage of your most recent order, whichever is higher. Instacart suggests a minimum $2 tip per individual delivery.

What is the average Instacart tip? ›

For most orders above $100, the restaurant standard of 15-25%+ works and that's what many customers who value the Instacart shopper's service tip. You can also try tipping half your item count when ordering from your run of the mill grocery store.

How much do Instacart workers make without tips? ›

Average Instacart Shoppers hourly pay ranges from approximately $8.00 per hour for Independent Contractor to $24.37 per hour for Delivery Driver. The average Instacart Shoppers salary ranges from approximately $15,000 per year for Driver (Independent Contractor) to $36,212 per year for Store Shopper.

Do Instacart workers get in trouble for missing items? ›

Do Instacart Shoppers Get Penalized for Missing Items? Shopper eligibility is determined by ratings, cancellation rate, and compliance with Instacart policies. While you probably won't be penalized for one report of missing items, you may have your account deactivated if reports like this are recurring.

Is 4.96 a good Instacart rating? ›

Someone in college with a 3.9 GPA would be considered an exceptional student, and an Uber driver with a 4.8-star rating is a trusty motorist, but an Instacart shopper whose rating falls to even 4.96 out of five stars could struggle to pay rent for the next month or even two.

Do Instacart Shoppers see reviews? ›

The company is introducing a new “Your stats” screen that shows shoppers information about their account, including their average customer rating, customer feedback and statistics like how many orders they've completed.

Is Instacart firing people? ›

Instacart is laying off every employee who voted to unionize, Motherboard reports. The news comes as the company shuts down in-store operations at some grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic and doubles down on curbside pickups.

Why not to use Instacart? ›

Although there are many benefits of using Instacart, there are a few downsides to consider as well: currently unavailable in many rural areas, which may be due to a lack of grocery stores or Instacart shoppers. may be more expensive than in-store shopping due to higher priced items and delivery and service fees.

Is Instacart becoming less popular? ›

By late spring of 2021, as the country emerged from lockdowns, that momentum had faded. Instacart's sales in the second quarter of the year fell sharply. Plans to go public that year looked less certain.

Why did Instacart CEO step down? ›

Since I transitioned from CEO to executive chairman a year ago, I realized that I want to pursue a new mission and I want to do it with the same singular focus that I had while building Instacart. Stepping off the board will allow me to do just that,” Mehta said in a statement.

Did Walmart stop using Instacart? ›

Is Walmart on Instacart? Walmart is on Instacart, but the Walmart Instacart partnership isn't available in every city. The two companies have worked together since 2019 when Instacart started delivering for about 200 Walmart stores in North America.

Is Instacart price gouging? ›

Because retailers set their prices in Instacart, there's no set fee or percentage you should expect to see when you shop in the app. Some Instacart users have reported average increases of 15-17% on grocery items, which seems to be average.

How much does the average Instacart shopper make per order? ›

In general Instacart shoppers will earn at least $10 per full-service batch delivery. This can vary widely, which is why we've found an average batch for Instacart pay per delivery is between $15-20.

Why does Instacart hold so much money? ›

When you place your order Instacart places a temporary authorization hold for 15% higher than your total order at checkout. This authorization hold is placed in case your total is higher due to special requests, added items, replacement items, or weight adjustments.

How rich is the owner of Instacart? ›

Apoorva Mehta is an Indian-Canadian businessman. He founded the grocery delivery company Instacart. In 2020, Mehta became a billionaire at the age of 33. As of 2021, his company was valued at $39 billion.

Does Instacart really deactivate your account? ›

Account deletion requests are processed within 30 days. You can continue placing orders during these 30 days. Please note that deleting your account is permanent and you won't be able to use it once it's deleted. In-app account deletion is unavailable on Android devices at this time.

How can I recover my Instacart account? ›

Login and account access issues
  1. Look for Forgot your password? on the login page.
  2. Click or tap Reset it.
  3. Enter your email address.
  4. Click or tap Reset Password.
  5. Check your email for the reset email confirmation and follow the steps.

How do I contact Instacart trust and safety team? ›

Get help
  1. Call 1-888-246-7822.
  2. Select Get help at the bottom of any article in the Help Center.
  3. On the Contact us page, select Chat with us to get connected right away.

How long does Instacart suspension last? ›

Instacart is temporarily suspending the accounts of its gig workers who cancel grocery orders for reasons they say are beyond their control, thereby cutting them off from their income. The company claims these temporary "pauses," which last at least 24 hours, are a preventative measure against fraud.

How much do Instacart shoppers make? ›

Average Instacart Shoppers hourly pay ranges from approximately $8.00 per hour for Independent Contractor to $24.37 per hour for Delivery Driver. The average Instacart Shoppers salary ranges from approximately $15,000 per year for Driver (Independent Contractor) to $36,212 per year for Store Shopper.

Do Instacart shoppers keep the receipt? ›

Shoppers must keep physical receipts from each order. And if a shopper does provide you with the store receipt, their shopper account is at risk of deactivation. Instacart provides customers with a digital receipt after their delivery is complete.

Can you get deactivated for missing items on Instacart? ›

At the end of the day, an Instacart customer reporting an order missing doesn't mean you'll be deactivated. But if the reports become frequent, Instacart will likely place your account under probation or deactivate you at that point.

Can Instacart shoppers shop at a different location? ›

With Instacart, you can shop from multiple stores when placing an order. You'll have separate carts for each store and can switch between stores while you're shopping to find and add items.

Can my wife use my Instacart account? ›

If your additional member shares the same address as you, then you both can shop together using family carts. However, you can each shop individually if you prefer, as items in a personal cart don't add to a family cart.

Why does Instacart deactivated shoppers? ›

Now, Instacart doesn't outline what Shopper rating can lead to deactivation. However, a very low Shopper rating is one of the most common reasons for Shopper deactivation. Instacart does this to avoid poorly-rated Shoppers from damaging the company's reputation and giving customers a poor experience.

What happens when you complain about an Instacart Shopper? ›

Once Instacart receives the complaint, a customer representative will contact you. They will inform you about refunds, credits, and how to resolve the problem. Shoppers sometimes experience payment issues, too. Instacart shoppers use a special card to buy customers' groceries.


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